elevator pitch

The Seinfeld Elevator Pitch Method For Nonprofits

 

Screen shot 2015-02-09 at 2.25.39 PMHave you ever wanted the ability to get someone to emotionally connect with your nonprofit in just seconds?  A few years ago we stumbled across a method to do so, and it’s been a huge help to our nonprofit leaders ever since.  

And it all started with a show about nothing.

The genius of Seinfeld was how quickly he brought you into his world.  During the early seasons, he’d lead into the show with clips of his stand-up starting with, “Have you ever noticed the guy who…” and then he’d mention some funny characteristic.  Watching at home, you’d immediately think of a friend with that same characteristic. 

Invariably, the trait Seinfeld mentioned would lead you into the quirky, crazy over-the-top world in which only Jerry, Kramer, Elaine and George lived.  With one sentence, he connected with you emotionally, kept you hooked, and brought you into his world.

Develop your own “Seinfeld Elevator Pitch”

Read these two sentences and see which one connects with you more:

  1. “I’m with a nonprofit and we help people who’ve been addicted to drugs, come out of prison, or who’ve been in an abusive relationship.”
  2. “Have you ever known someone with a tough background who had trouble getting back on their feet?”

When you read the first one, what popped into your mind?  Was it someone you didn’t know going to help someone else you didn’t know?  Or possibly that it seemed like a well-intentioned list?

But when you read the second sentence, maybe the first thing that popped into your mind was an actual person, a friend or a loved one.  Someone who’d had a tough life and just couldn’t seem to break the cycle.  Once that person is in your mind, everything else you hear will have an emotional anchor.

STEP 1: Write your “Seinfeld” question.

Choose a question that helps your listener put an actual person in mind, and will lead to what you actually do.  

When our leaders started doing this, they saw big results. The elevator pitch stopped being about them and their nonprofit, and it started being about the person hearing the pitch.  It also helped them crystalize what the pitch should be about — connecting people, not about listing facts.

Emotional connection trumps listing facts every time for memory recall.

Why The Pitch Order Matters – The Old-Timey Newspaper Method

Remember newspapers?  Unlike their online progeny, space for an article wasn’t unlimited.  The most important information was first, then the second most important, and so on.  That allowed editors to cut out the end of your article if a more important story came along, but the readers still had the most important information.

The same goes for your elevator pitch.  After your engaging question, put the most important thing someone should know first, then the second, and so on.  Time becomes less of a factor.  If you’re only going from the third to the first floor at least you’re able to get in the three most important sentences.  If you’re going from the first floor to the top of the Chrysler building, too bad for them!

STEP 2: Write down the single most important fact someone should know about your organization.  Then the second, and third.

This is difficult, but you need to write down the single most important thing someone should know about your organization.  Then you need to shorten that.  Then you need to figure out the second, and so on.  The more intentional you are about this, the better your pitch will be.

Call To Action

Whether you’ve had time for three sentences or thirty, your last sentence should be a call to action in the form of a question.  It can be anything from “Will you pray for us?” to “Would you like to be on our mailing list?” or “Would you like to donate to our cause?”

Then wait.  Quietly. Do not say another word until the other person says something.  I’m serious.  See how I’m writing short sentences without commas for emphasis.

This is shocking, but some people actually think before they speak!  And this thinking takes time.  If we ask a question and then answer that question for a person, or don’t give them time to think, we’re being disrespectful.  It’s hard, but get used to five seconds of silence.

Communication is a two-way street, so you need to close with some sort of call to action. If you’re just talking at someone and it appears there’s no reason, you’re just blowing hot air.  The call to action gives what you’ve been saying a purpose. 

STEP 3: Create a closing call to action question.

I always consider an elevator pitch a work in progress, but here is the current NonBoardBoard elevator pitch:

“Have you ever been in a position as a leader where you were expected to know everything, but didn’t? (pause)  NonBoardBoard is a Christian nonprofit that helps leaders fill in those blanks of knowledge so they can be even more effective in serving others.  (short pause) We do this through a monthly speaker series, online resources like nonboardboard.org, networking and consulting. For almost five years we’ve helped leaders who help others on 5 continents and 16 countries.  Would you like to attend a NonBoardBoard meeting? (wait for response)”

Every time I’ve asked the “Seinfeld” question to a leader, I get a “yes!”  The next sentence tells what we do.  The following sentence tells how we do it.  Then there’s a little bragging, but it helps people to know we’ve been doing this a while and there’s some reach.  Finally, there is a call to action.  

Even if I had to drop the ‘how we do it’ sentence and ‘brag’ sentence, a person would still get the idea based on the lead-in question and what we do.

BONUS STEP: Customize your elevator pitches.

Your elevator pitch should change depending on who you’re talking to.  The one above is for a nonprofit leader who we want to come to an NBB event.  Here is one to an ‘influencer’, or a person who might know nonprofit leaders we want to reach.

“Have you ever known a nonprofit leader with a huge heart but who didn’t quite have all the business skills to match? (pause) NonBoardBoard is a Christian nonprofit that helps leaders fill in those blanks of knowledge so they can be even more effective in serving others.  (short pause) We do this through a monthly speaker series, online resources like nonboardboard.org, networking and consulting. For almost five years we’ve helped leaders who help others on 5 continents and 16 countries.  Would you be willing to refer (that person) to us? (wait for response)”

You’ll notice that the body stays the same, but the Seinfeld question and call to action change.

Here’s the version for someone we’re interested in having speak or write for NonBoardBoard.

“Have you ever wanted to give back to several nonprofits at once, but without a long term commitment? (pause) NonBoardBoard is a Christian nonprofit that helps leaders who don’t have all the business skill fill in those blanks of knowledge so they can be even more effective in serving others.  (short pause) We do this through a monthly speaker series, online resources like nonboardboard.org, networking and consulting. For almost five years we’ve helped leaders who help others on 5 continents and 16 countries.  Would you like to speak at a NonBoardBoard event, or write an article for NonBoardBoard.org? (wait for response)”

Again, it’s really just the questions that change.  NonBoardBoard always does the same thing, but how people engage with us changes, and this is reflected in the emotionally-connected question and the call to action.

Here are the three steps in review:

STEP 1: Write a “Seinfeld” question that helps your listener put an actual person in mind, and will also lead to what you actually do.  

STEP 2: Write down the single most important thing someone should know about your organization.  Then the second, and third, in descending order.

STEP 3: Write a closing call to action question.

BONUS STEP: Customize your elevator pitch for different audiences.

I would love to see your “Seinfeld” pitches in action!  Can you record your “Seinfeld” elevator pitch, post it online, and share the link with us by posting below?  Thanks so much!

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